Incorrect Relief Valve Set Point Leads to Explosion

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

Incident Synopsis
During a standard testing procedure, a 3,000 psig relief valve actuated at normal line pressure, releasing gaseous H2. The gaseous H2 combined with air, resulting in an explosion which damaged the test facility.

Cause
The relief valve was improperly set to open at line pressure, and the inspection was inadequate in that it didn't identify this error. Contributing cause was poor design of the venting system, which was installed in a horizontal position, causing inadequate venting and buildup of static electricity.

Combustible Hydrogen Gas Vapors Ignited in a Battery Plant

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

SummaryA fire occurred in a battery manufacturing plant that was about to cease operations for the night. The fire caused an estimated $2.4 million in property damage when an electrical source ignited combustible hydrogen vapors.BackgroundThe incident occurred in the forming room, where wet cell batteries were stored for charging on metal racks. The facility had a wet-pipe sprinkler system, but no automatic hydrogen detection equipment.Incident SynopsisAt 11:52 pm, a security guard on patrol noticed a free burning fire in the forming room and notified the fire department.

Inadequate Maintenance at a Soap Manufacturing Plant Causes a Hydrogen Flash Fire

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

An employee at a soap manufacturing plant died in a flash fire outside the facility's hydrogenation building. Responding personnel encountered a fire at the base of the plant's hydrogen storage towers, and they found the victim, who was burned over 90 percent of his body, some 50 feet away.

Officials determined that a pipe connection failed and that hydrogen, pressurized at 1,800 psi, ignited when it was released into the atmosphere, killing the plant operator.

Laboratory Technician Fatally Burned When Leaking Hydrogen Ignites

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

A laboratory technician died and three others were injured when hydrogen gas being used in experiments leaked and ignited a flash fire.

The incident occurred in a 5,700-square-foot, single-story building of unprotected non-combustible construction. The building was not equipped with automatic gas detection or fire suppression systems.

Employees in the laboratory were conducting high-pressure, high-temperature experiments with animal and vegetable oils in a catalytic cracker under a gas blanket. They were using a liquefied petroleum gas burner to supply heat in the process.

Hydrogen Explosion due to Failure of an Incorrectly Sized Spirometallic Gasket at a Refinery Hydrodesulfurization Plant

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

Overview: A hydrogen leak and explosion occurred due to the installation of an incorrectly sized gasket at the suction line of a hydrogen compressor in a refinery hydrodesulfurization plant. The incorrectly sized gasket was mounted during the startup of the plant in 2001 and had never being inspected nor replaced.

Hydrogen Leak from Onboard Storage System of a Fuel Cell-Powered Lift Truck

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

A significant hydrogen leak occurred during refueling of the onboard hydrogen storage tank of a fuel cell-powered lift truck while it was completely depowered. The in-tank shutoff solenoid valve had recently been replaced, and this was the initial refueling event after the replacement. The fuel zone access panel was removed to allow constant visual leak checking with Snoop leak-detection fluid. The event occurred during the final pressure testing of the repaired system when an O-ring failed at approximately 4500 psi, releasing the entire contents of the hydrogen tank in about 10 minutes.

Pressure Relief Device Fails at Fueling Station

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

A pressure relief device (PRD) valve failed on a high-pressure storage tube at a hydrogen fueling station, causing the release of approximately 300 kilograms of hydrogen gas. The gas ignited at the exit of the vent pipe and burned for 2-1/2 hours until technicians were permitted by the local fire department to enter the station and stop the flow of gas. During this incident the fire department evacuated nearby businesses and an elementary school, closed adjacent streets, and ordered a high school to shelter in place.

Hydrogen Fire from Valve Packing During Maintenance Shutdown at Chemical Manufacturing Plant

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

A chemical plant experienced a valve failure during a planned shutdown for maintenance that caused hydrogen to leak from a valve and catch fire. Four chemical reactor chambers in series were being emptied of liquid using hydrogen gas as part of a maintenance procedure. Two heater valves were opened allowing 3000 psi hydrogen to flow in reverse direction to purge the reactor system for approximately 25 minutes. At completion of the purging process, a "light" thud was heard as the reactor empty-out valves are being closed.

Rupture of Refinery Heat Exchanger

First Name
Andy
Last Name
Piatt

A petroleum refinery experienced a catastrophic rupture at one bank of three heat exchangers in a catalytic reformer/naphtha hydrotreater unit because of high temperature hydrogen attack (HTHA). Hydrogen and naphtha at more than 500F were released from the ruptured heat exchanger and ignited, causing an explosion and an intense fire burned for more than three hours.

Subscribe to Equipment Failure

Key:

  • = No Ignition
  • = Explosion
  • = Fire
Hydrogen Incident Summaries by Equipment and Primary Cause/Issue
Equipment / Cause Equipment Design or Selection Component Failure Operational Error Installation or Maintenance Inadequate Gas or Flame Detection Emergency Shutdown Response Other or Unknown
Hydrogen Gas Metal Cylinder or Regulator   3/31/2012
4/30/1995
2/6/2013
4/26/2010 12/31/1969     3/17/1999
11/1/2001
12/23/2003
Piping/Valves 4/4/2002
2/2/2008
5/11/1999
4/20/1987
11/4/1997
12/31/1969
8/19/1986
7/27/1991
12/19/2004
2/6/2008
10/3/2008
4/5/2006
5/1/2007
9/19/2007
10/31/1980
2/7/2009 1/24/1999
2/24/2006
6/8/1998
12/31/1969
2/7/2009

9/1/1992
10/31/1980

10/3/2008  
Tubing/Fittings/Hose   9/23/1999
8/2/2004
8/6/2008
9/19/2007
1/1/1982 9/30/2004
10/7/2005
  10/7/2005  
Compressor   10/5/2009
6/10/2007
8/21/2008
1/15/2019
    10/5/2009 8/21/2008  
Liquid Hydrogen Tank or Delivery Truck 4/27/1989 12/19/2004
1/19/2009
8/6/2004 12/31/1969   1/1/1974 12/17/2004
Pressure Relief Device 7/25/2013
5/4/2012
1/15/2002
1/08/2007
12/31/1969        
Instrument 1/15/2019 3/17/1999
12/31/1969
2/6/2013
    11/13/73    
Hydrogen Generation Equipment 7/27/1999     10/23/2001      
Vehicle or Lift Truck   7/21/2011         2/8/2011
12/9/2010
Fuel Dispenser   8/2/2004
5/1/2007
6/11/2007
9/19/2007
  2/24/2006
1/22/2009
     
Fuel Cell Stack            

5/3/2004
12/9/2010
2/8/2011

Hydrogen Cooled Generator       12/31/1969
2/7/2009
     
Other (floor drain, lab
anaerobic chamber,
heated glassware,
test chamber,
gaseous hydrogen
composite cylinder,
delivery truck)
  11/14/1994
7/21/2011
7/27/1999
6/28/2010
8/21/2008
12/31/1969
3/22/2018
    6/10/2019
  • = No Ignition
  • = Explosion
  • = Fire